The personal injury team at Penningtons Manches LLP has successfully secured damages for a client in his claim against Surrey County Council following a road accident which resulted from hazardous potholes on a stretch of road which had not been adequately maintained. Our client, a keen and experienced cyclist, was cycling along a road which was flooded. He reduced his speed accordingly and, having encountered a pothole shortly before the flooding, took the shallowest route possible to avoid further submerged potholes at the edge of the road. When travelling through the flooded section of the road, the front wheel of his bicycle dropped away suddenly into a submerged pothole, stopping the bike completely and violently.
Our client was thrown from his bicycle onto the road with the first point of contact being his head. Fortunately, he was wearing a cycle helmet but he sustained complex multiple fractured metacarpals in his left hand and a number of superficial soft tissue injuries.
Following the team’s instruction, we contacted Surrey County Council which was responsible for the highway . Liability was denied in full on the basis that the road was subject to annual reviews by an experienced Highways Inspector during which no hazards had been identified and that this was a suitable system of inspection and maintenance. Our investigations showed, however, that the Council had received a number of complaints of potholes in the area immediately prior to our client’s accident. It had inspected the area but failed to carry out a full and proper inspection of the flooded road.
The Council was therefore aware of the floodwater and risks of potholes submerged underwater but took no measures prior to our client’s accident to repair them or to manage the potential hazard during the flooding. Only following our client’s accident did the Council close the road, drain the water and repair the various potholes.
The case proceeded along the court timetable as we felt that the Council had not met its obligations and it settled the claim a few weeks before trial was due to take place.
Philippa Luscombe, partner in the personal injury team at Penningtons Manches LLP, said: ‘’An authority has a responsibility to road users and, particularly where it is on notice of potential defects in the road, it is required to take reasonable steps to protect those users. In this case, it clearly failed to do all that was reasonable particularly as the action taken after the accident could have been taken earlier. While no formal admission was received, payment of damages to our client suggests that the case would have been successful at court.’’